Don’t arm PH militias in West Philippine Sea—Hontiveros
MANILA, Philippines—Maritime militias that the Philippine Navy planned to deploy to the West Philippine Sea should not be armed, an opposition senator said on Wednesday (Oct. 14).
Sen. Risa Hontiveros raised concern about arming the militias during Commission on Appointments deliberations on the appointments of senior Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers.
“Those who should be armed in the country should only be the AFP and PNP,” she said in Filipino, using the acronym for Philippine National Police. “I will really be worried if we proceed with arming fishermen,” Hontiveros said.
“Hopefully they should not be armed, let them fish but beef up the capacity of the Navy and Coast Guard,” she said.
Hontiveros raised fears that Filipino fishermen, who would be tapped for the militia, could become an easy target of China if they brought weapons with them.
“They might be targeted more by China,” she said in Filipino. “Not only one fisherman could get killed,” she added.
She said instead of arming the fishermen, they should be escorted by the Navy or Coast Guard in contested areas “so they can fish freely, free from harassment and bullying especially by China.”
At a Senate budget hearing on Monday (Oct. 12), Navy Chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said the Navy would send maritime militias to the West Philippine Sea to conduct patrols and protect Filipino fishermen.
The first batches of maritime militiamen had been originally recruited by the Philippine Army to form part of its Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, or Cafgu militia. Bacordo said control of the militia would soon be transferred from the Army to the Navy.
The Navy chief said that this was a response to Chinese maritime militias, which have been harassing and monitoring Philippine vessels and features in the West Philippine Sea in recent years.
While Hontiveros supported the idea, she said she found the term Cafgu “unfortunate” because it was associated with martial law.
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